Colchicum Patrol: Week 3

– Posted in: Colchicums

An interesting thing happened between last week’s colchicum patrol and this one. Take a look at this:

Lysimachus colchicum five days apart

The color of many colchicums really intensified in the space of a few days.

I don’t know exactly when the color intensified, but it seemed to happen overnight. It delayed the posting of this patrol, because I went back and took new photographs of many flowers to reflect the new color. I think this happens every year, but this is the first year I had it recorded in pictures. What causes it? I am pretty sure it is cooler temperatures, but whether it is cooler nights, cooler days, or just generally cooler, I don’t know. I just bought ‘Lysimachus’ this year from Odyssey Bulbs, and I assumed that milder lavender-pink color was its natural shade. I was surprised to see it deepen, but as I said, I’ve seen that before, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. But I really wasn’t expecting to see it send up so many additional blossoms in its first year. I’m impressed.
Colchicum Zephyr

‘Zephyr’ is vigorous, shapely, and beautiful. Get some.

‘Zephyr’ is another one that deepened in color this week. This variety has multiplied rapidly for me, so that I now grow it in several different places in the garden. At the same time that the petals deepened in color, the flower tube changed from white to yellow-green. I really like the contrast, and I keep looking for a plant that will complement both those colors to plant with it.
Antares colchicum

Quite a different effect with this one

‘Antares’ is quite different in shape from many of the other colchicums and more delicate in its coloration. I think it’s lovely and I wonder how I can site it to bring out its beauty.
Colchicum autumnale Alboplenum

White colchicums give many opportunities for contrast.

The single pink form of C. autumnale was in the first colchicum patrol. Here is the double white form, which multiplies well for me. The white colchicums look very striking paired with dark foliage, but I planted these in a bed of blue-purple flowering hardy geranium. (The geranium was here when I moved in, and I don’t know the name.) I will probably move them next spring, as I don’t think they are very visible amongst the geranium foliage.
Colchicum speciosum

Colchicum speciosum is the parent of many hybrids

Sadly, colchicums are pretty mixed up in the commercial end of things. Part of this is because, as we see with ‘Lysimachus,’ colchicums change color depending on the age of the flower and environmental factors such as temperature. Part of the reason is no one has published a study describing all the species and cultivars since E. A. Bowles wrote Crocus and Colchicum in 1924. Because he didn’t mention tessellation when describing C. speciosum, some maintain that if there is any checkering to be seen, it is not the pure species, but a hybrid. Bowles did say C. speciosum had a “deep lilac” flower tube. And yet, I have ordered this corm three different times, from three different growers, and each time the flowers were tessellated and the perianth tube was white. So I don’t know what to think.

The first time I ordered C. speciosum I also ordered C. ‘The Giant’ from the same firm. And I could not tell them apart. In a different year I ordered the white form of C. byzantinum, and it was neither white nor byzantinum. As it turns out, all three of these flowers look exactly the same. I call them impostors.

impostor colchicum

I don’t know the true identity of this impostor.

Whatever their true identity, these flowers are quite large and multiply quickly. They look great fronting a lilac hedge or a stone wall.
impostor colchicums by stone wall

These large flowers show up well against a stone wall.

It would be nice to know their true name, but it’s not necessary to enjoy them.

More Colchicum Patrols

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Mark October 4, 2013, 2:17 pm

Hi Kathy, always enjoy reading your blog. I haven’t had much luck with Colchicums yet. Any advice on the very hardiest and most likely to multiply? Thanks, happy weekend!

Kathy Purdy October 4, 2013, 3:16 pm

Hi, Mark, thanks for taking the time to comment. Colchicum byzantinum was growing in the abandoned garden of our first house when we moved in. It was coming up through weeds and lawn grass and obviously had no winter protection. We definitely had USDA Zone 4 winters back then, so I think it is as hardy as they come. I would avoid planting it where water stands in mud season, but it is more tolerant of clay soils than many of them.

Bob/the miserable gardener September 30, 2013, 11:11 pm

Your “impostor” appears to have sufficient tesselation to make it ‘Glory of Heemstede’. Without the tesselation, ‘Dick Trotter’. (A lot of photos of the latter are really too purple.)

Kathy Purdy October 4, 2013, 3:18 pm

That is interesting, Bob. I’ve read about ‘Glory of Heemstede’ but have never seen it sold in the States. I had ‘Dick Trotter’ at one time, but lost it. I can’t remember what it looked like and I don’t think I took photos of it.

Donna@Gardens Eye View September 29, 2013, 7:13 am

Kathy you make me want to get so many more of these beauties…mine popped up in full this week. A few will be later and a welcome site later in the season.

Kathy Purdy September 29, 2013, 9:13 pm

Donna, that is my mission: to set the world on fire for colchicums! They are under-appreciated in gardens. If more folks buy them, there will be more hybridization and more attention to getting the names right. I am glad yours came up. I don’t know what triggers their blooming.

Marcia Meigs September 27, 2013, 4:37 pm

Kathy, I would be happy for you to stop before or after this weekend’s meeting to check my colchicums. Perhaps, although I doubt it, you would see one you do nt have. Just let me know if you can stop…perhaps you can supply missing names….smile.
I have been very ill, getting worse daily for five months, very weak, losing weight drastically, suffer dizziness and faintness with as yet no diagnosis. So I might chicken out after five or six minutes but you can look around on your own.


Marcia Meigs September 27, 2013, 3:03 pm

Dear Kathy,

This has been a wonderful series and the photos fabulous. I have so many colchicums with missing labels, perhaps I can verify a few. You have a wonderful collection.
For years I have given cholchicums to the Ad Chapt sale and they have made 200 dollars each year. I think I will have to cut down next year as it looks a little bald out there. Either I have been too generous or some have simply disappeared. Still it is obvious that there are nice clumps to divide.
Thank you always for such interesting and in this case, very intensive blogs.

Kathy Purdy September 27, 2013, 4:28 pm

Thank you, Marcia. I confess to some missing labels myself, and some labeled plants that don’t look very different from other colchicums with different names. I agree we should have a swap sometime.

Libby September 27, 2013, 9:04 am

So beautiful! As I delve into my garden more ambitiously than ever, I’m always looking for new plants, particularly with such vibrant color like this, that can withstand the cold of the Northeast. So glad I found your blog! 🙂

Kathy Purdy September 27, 2013, 9:15 am

Glad you stopped by! Check out the Plant Info category for more plants, and the FAQs for tips on our challenging climate.

Libby September 27, 2013, 9:35 am

Such great information, thanks so much!

Peter/Outlaw September 26, 2013, 11:10 pm

I love colchicum! Fortunately I inherited quite a few of them with our old house. I’ve moved them around quite a bit and have added a few different varieties from time to time. Thank you for these posts about this special plant!